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When an upgrade with miles to Hawaii is worth it

by on Mon August 10, 2015 • No Comment


If you want to get to Hawaii in First Class and aren’t lucky enough to live on the West Coast, you don’t have a lot of great options.

You can:

  • Pay 75,000 miles or more for a round trip award ticket on American, if you can find Saver space available on flights that work
  • Use 60,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles for a round trip award on United, if you can find Saver space (or 80,000 miles using United MileagePlus)
  • Use 45,000 Korean SkyPass miles for a round trip award on Delta, though Saver space is almost impossible to find if you’re not on the West Coast
  • Pay $1,500 – $2,000+ for a cash ticket, depending on when and where you’re traveling from

Or, consider a mileage upgrade with American AAdvantage miles.

You’ll pay $175 each way plus 15,000 miles, or $350 plus 30,000 miles roundtrip, and you can fly in an international style flat seat on American’s Dallas to Honolulu flights.


Compare that to United where you’ll pay $500 plus 30,000 miles one way if you want to upgrade on one of its long flights from Newark, Houston, or Washington, D.C. to Hawaii.

And for flights departing June 1 or later Delta wants 55,000 miles one way to upgrade the cheapest fares.

Upgrading has a few advantages over relying on a regular award ticket:

  • You can waitlist for space to open up in First Class. If you book a regular award ticket, you can’t waitlist for First Class with AAdvantage miles, so upgrading gives you more chances to sit up front when seats open.
  • Upgrade space is generally more available than Saver level award space. So you’re more likely to confirm a seat in advance.
  • You earn miles for your trip. And on an East Coast to Hawaii trip that can net you around 10,000 miles roundtrip.

American runs two widebody Boeing 767 aircraft from Dallas to Honolulu each day, and they feature international style flat seats.

They’re not American’s newest planes, so they’re not fully flat beds, but they are much nicer than the seats you’ll usually find on flights to Hawaii.


Cash tickets in coach to Hawaii are often very cheap, and with AAdvantage you can upgrade the very lowest fares, so it’s possible to sit upfront for less than $1,000 cash out of pocket.

Unforutnately American doesn’t make it easy to search for flights that have upgrade seats available. You can search with a paid subscription to or call AAdvantage on the phone. American uses the ‘A’ fare code for upgrades, and you’ll often find lots of upgrades available on the Saturday afternoon departure out of Dallas.


And if you want to use all miles one way and cash plus an upgrade another, Hawaii is a great place to try that strategy, as one way cash tickets are often just half the price of a roundtrip, giving you the flexibility to use a mix of cash one way and miles another.



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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
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Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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